A couple of years ago ago if anybody suggested such a transfer may happen, they’d surely have been ridiculed, but when it was recently reported that Arsenal were interested in Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, it suddenly didn’t sound so ridiculous.
The bloke between the sticks has been a problem for the Gunners since the latter days of Jens Lehmann. Almunia flattered for a while, but was often regarded as one of those ‘keepers that “had one in him.” Always likely to drop a seemingly simple save over his line, as it were. Last season, and well into this one Polish international Wojciech Szczesny was the man in possession. The young ‘keeper appeared to be the answer – despite his uncanny likeness to Biff from “Back to the Future!” As the season wore on however, probably not helped by a seemingly ever-changing and equally hesitant back line, performances dipped, and of late compatriot Lucasz Fabianski has been handed he gloves. Even supposedly third-choice stopper Vito Mannone has been tried out. It appears therefore that Arsenal may well be on the lookout for a top line goalkeeper, and if that happens to be one with an outstanding reputation and a solid dependability that spreads to the back four, that’s a bonus. It sounds like a photo-fit of the Chelsea player, doesn’t it, but surely the Blues wouldn’t countenance such a move – or would they?
There’s talk at the Bridge – when isn’t there? – that Abramovich retains an anger about the way that his ‘big players’ scuppered the ‘project’ he had planned with Andre Villas-Boas. Sure, Robbie di Matteo stepped in and gave the billionaire the trophy he had always craved, but although Abramovich has deep pockets to fund his footballing adventure, he also has a long memory. It may not be wise to upset this gentleman. Since that time, it seems that he has set about dismantling the coterie of players that he may perceive as considering themselves a power base at the club. The richer you are, the more confident you are that there’s only need for one boss, and that’s you.
Firstly, Champions’ League icon Didier Drogba was allowed to leave, even though Fernando Torres was – and still remains – a pitiful figure at the club; a mere shadow of his former prowess. Then, perhaps perceived as an ally of the players, di Matteo was shown the door in fairly short shrift. It now appears that Frank Lampard will not be given a new contract at the end of the season, and in a year’s time, when John Terry’s is on the cusp of denouement, what will his chances be of securing a new deal; especially as his first team appearances have been sporadic of late. Of the clique discernible as the powerful players remaining from the Mourinho era, that leaves only one. Chelsea’s number one. Sounding a little more plausible now?
Although there’s logic in the above, selling one of your top player, at the peak of his powers is hardly the same as allowing contracts to expire on a few mid-thirties players with declining value. The answer however may lie out in the Spanish capital. Belgian international Thibaud Cortois was captured for the Blues in the summer, and immediately loaned out to Atletico Madrid to experience pressure in a top league. The young ‘keeper has been earning rave reviews in La Liga, and is one of the reasons for Atletico’s storming season. So, if in the summer, he’s returned to the Bridge, a ready replacement will be in place. Was this the long term plan in place when the signing was made? At the moment it’s all speculation, but there’s an undeniable logic in there.
A ‘safe hands’ goalkeeper is a ‘must have’ for any aspiring team, especially in the robustly physical Premier League. Cech is such a player, and that’s why Arsenal would surely covet his services. The question is, do Chelsea consider Cortois to be Cech’s equivalent, but just younger and without any ‘baggage?’ If Chelsea do think so, what was previously the unthinkable, may just appear to be only unlikely, but possible instead.